This entire personal finance blog is about “letters” being written to you (Mr. Market), the fictitious character that exhibits all sorts of emotions due to the gyrations of the stock market. What letter, however, is the most important one YOU could ever write?
It’s called a “Letter of Final Wishes” (LFW), or as we’ve described it to our clients at My Portfolio Guide, LLC, a “Letter to My Family: Things you should know“. On page 6 of the Spring edition newsletter of “the Guide” (click here if you have not seen it yet), we touch on this very important gesture that you can do for your family. Aside from the legalities of estate planning, this exercise is perhaps the single most loving and considerate document you can create for your family that they will forever be grateful for.
Our template (which we share below) is not a legal document and should never replace your will or living trust along with all the other ancillary documents such as a health care proxy or power of attorney.
One thing any of our readers will know if that we don’t pretend that we (or anyone) owns a crystal ball. The only thing we can promise you about tomorrow is that the day ends in the letter “y”.
One other thing that we know will happen…God willing…is that you will eventually retire or be 65 and eligible for Medicare. In advance of National Medicare Education Week we are doing two things:
(1) We’re sharing this article written by Steven Stasioski and,
(2) We’re happy to announce a free educational event where we’ll be addressing the ins and outs of Medicare. On October 17, 2019 at 6:30pm you can join Matt Pixa from My Portfolio Guide and Steven Stasioski from SCS Tax & Insurance Services at the Seal Beach Yacht Club. Bring your appetite and questions for a great evening of education and camaraderie. RSVP via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (562)799-5595.
Almost every letter we write to you has to do with educating people about building or protecting wealth. At the end of the day, however, what does it all mean? Real wealth is more than a number, a status, or some level of material achievement.
To date the best articulation of this (in our opinion) comes from the alleged letter that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs wrote from his death bed. We note “alleged” in that sources closest to him recount it differently but none the less, this is an incredibly powerful message. Continue reading →
You’ve posted some very impressive performance since Donald Trump’s victory in the recent presidential election. While the debate will continue in regards to what changes will take place with the new regime in Washington D.C., individuals are contemplating how they will be impacted. What can you expect and how might you be able to make some strategic moves to take advantage of these changes? Let’s specifically look at what Trump and his team are proposing to change with the current tax laws and how it will impact your finances both today and in the foreseeable future.
With Trump in the White House and Republicans taking control over both the House and Senate, tax cuts are virtually a sure thing. Our current tax codes have individuals paying rates on a graduated level with seven brackets ranging from 10% to 39.6%. What many don’t realize is that with ‘Obamacare’ the top tax bracket pays an additional 3.8% on net investment income which brings their rate to 43.4%. Here are some key points to keep in mind as we move into 2017 and the potential changes: Continue reading →
The stock market has been rather nasty as of late so let us switch gears and touch on a topic that most investors avoid yet need to pay more attention to. After all, what exactly happens to your investments when you’re gone? Do you actually need a living trust or would a will suffice? We reached out to Mindy Baldwin, an estate planner in Rancho Santa Margarita for expertise on this topic:
The terms “will” and “trust” come up often when doing estate planning. Many people assume that these terms mean the same thing and use them interchangeably. However, wills and trusts are different documents that are used in different circumstances. Continue reading →
If you were asked to list two or three of the largest Registered Investment Advisory (RIA) firms in the country which ones would come to mind first? You’d definitely hear many of the names associated with Wall Street and the investment industry. Names like: Merrill Lynch, Charles Schwab, Fidelity and Wells Fargo – while these are certainly large firms none of them are RIA’s. We’ve written on several occasions what an RIA is and how they are driven by their fiduciary responsibility to their clients. A simple online search of RIA’s will show that the largest firm is nearly 40% larger than any its closest competitor. It specializes in assisting individuals in managing their company retirement accounts and has become a behemoth in the investment industry. Financial Engines, Inc. has risen out of relative obscurity and is quickly becoming a household name.
Financial Engines is based out of Sunnyvale, CA, is publicly traded under the ticker symbol FNGN, and currently manages over $90 billion in assets! To put this in perspective the second largest RIA firm is Fisher Investments with assets under management of just over $50 billion. Fisher Investments is a marketing machine and if you have a portfolio over $500,000 in value, you’ve most likely received one of their post card mailings or solicitation emails.
Financial Engines, on the other hand, is a relatively young company and is the creation of some of the brightest minds in the industry that made their mark in the late 1990’s. The founders of the firm are Nobel Prize winning economist William Sharpe, Stanford Law Professor Joseph Grundfest, Attorney Craig Johnson and Jeff Maggioncalda. While the firm went through some minor growing pains, they have certainly found their target market – working with individuals and managing the investments in their company retirement plans. Continue reading →
Not only do you toy with the emotions of every investor; you also have a partner that often surprises them and hits investors where it hurts the most… their pocketbook. Making money in the stock market is great but so many forget that eventually they have to reconcile with Uncle Sam come tax time. Look for example at some investments that we have recently discussed: Under Armour (UA) and InvenSense (INVN). If you had purchased these stocks on the first trading day of this year (1/2/2014) you would be up 58% with Under Armour and up 20% with InvenSense. These numbers are impressive and would certainly make any investor happy but what happens when they are sold? How will they impact your tax return and how much of the gain will you have to pay?
“Nothing is certain except death and taxes.”
– Benjamin Franklin
***Before we move any further in this discussion it is important to note that we are not tax advisors. In this article we will be discussing general guidelines. Every investor’s situation is unique and deserves personal attention. If you have questions we would encourage you to talk with a qualified tax professional.
Let’s take a moment to go over some of the basics when it comes to investor tax issues. Continue reading →
How ‘fit’ is your financial team? Putting together a financial team to help you meet your financial goals is like building a winning sports team. Each member of your financial team needs to know what their responsibility is and what they are contributing to your financial success. With tax-season behind us and the equity and fixed income markets experiencing volatility, now is a great time to assess your team and see if it is truly making the grade!
There is no single approach to building your team or a guide on how to assemble one. The key is the team needs to work for you, they need to give you a sense of comfort and they need to work together. Whether you work with individuals or utilize software solutions it is important that an assessment takes place so that you don’t suddenly find yourself in a hole that you need to dig out of.
In this article we will discuss how to build your “Team of Trust”. We will look at three key areas that every investor should consider: Estate Planning, Tax Planning and Financial Advice. We will discuss some key elements with each member of the team: Why? Who? What? How Much? Continue reading →
On occasion you must certainly get writer’s cramp with all of your musings about the stock market. Allow us to not only give you a break this week but to also open your eyes to something outside of investments. All the attention you give your portfolio may be hampered if you neglect a few other issues. We’ve asked a guest and expert in estate planning to contribute some important information that you should be aware of:
Your living trust might be out-of-date.
Good financial planning isn’t just about stocks, bonds and other investments, it also involves looking at a client’s entire situation, encompassing family goals, tax planning and estate planning. When My Portfolio Guide, LLC invited me to contribute an article, I jumped at the opportunity to collaborate with them because of their commitment to understanding all aspects of their clients’ lives when implementing strategies and solutions.
For those of you who have prepared a living trust, it is important to have your estate plan reviewed from time to time as things change. As you are probably aware, new Federal and State laws are constantly being implemented, not to mention any changes that may be occurring in your personal life. Because of the constant evolution of your personal situation and the legal landscape in general, I encourage my clients to occasionally review their living trusts and associated documents to make sure that everything is still going according to plan.
In particular, there has been one major change which I want to make you aware of. Many people have created AB Trusts over the past two decades. AB Trusts are designed to protect more of a married couple’s assets from being taxed by the government upon their passing. However, one drawback of an AB Trust is that it is relatively expensive to implement after one spouse passes away. The AB Trust requires that the trust be divided or “split” into two separate trusts after the first spouse passes away. This split requires the help of an attorney or a CPA to divide and administer the trust and can also give legal rights to children or other beneficiaries over a portion of the trust during the lifetime of the surviving spouse, increasing the potential for conflict. Furthermore, the split requires the filing of additional tax returns after the passing of the first spouse. The costs associated with an AB split are often several thousands of dollars.